Tuesday 12 December 2017

Love and success in the capital's creative quarter

Dearbhla Keenan started working on Dublin's South William Street, and found romance two doors down, says Lucinda O'Sullivan

Working Neighbours: Brian Deery and Dearbhla Keenan on South William Street.
Working Neighbours: Brian Deery and Dearbhla Keenan on South William Street.

Lucinda O'Sullivan

There was a bit of a rumpus in England last week when it transpired a child's school photo had been photoshopped without her parent's permission. "I don't want a perfect photo, I want a photo of my perfect child," said the mother. She had a good point, but when I look back at old school photos, which had us no more than tidied up in the school blazer and hair brushed, while they do reflect the innocence of youth, there can be a cringe factor and many might wish that missing tooth or big spot had been airbrushed.

We live in a world where we are constantly gazing at images of celebrities in magazines and TV who are groomed and honed to perfection. These people wouldn't risk slapping on the make-up themselves, they leave it to the experts - the professional make-up artists who know just how to give you beautiful cheekbones and fulsome lips. Dearbhla Keenan is the make-up manager at Brown Sugar and one of the foremost make-up artists in the country. She grew up in Drumcondra in a house full of women who were totally interested in fashion, but Dearbhla was always interested in make-up artistry.

"The house was always full of fashion magazines and my mam would always have been very creative and fashion forward as well. I always looked up to my older sister Sinead, who is a fashion stylist. When I was in transition year I spoke to the career guidance teacher, but at that time, about 15 years ago, there wasn't a lot she could tell me about dedicated make-up courses as most came hand in hand with general beauty therapy, which wasn't where my interest was. However, I discovered that IADT in Dun Laoghaire had a two-year diploma make-up course."

This course was tutored by Toni Delaney who, during her long career, worked on everyone from Richard Burton and Fred Astaire to Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson. "Being very focused on film, theatre and TV, I suppose I thought that was the line of work I was going to go down. However, when I finished college in 2005, Mark O'Keeffe and Paula Callan were opening Brown Sugar in South William Street, and I was very lucky and started working there."

South William Street, indeed, was to mean so much more in Dearbhla's life than she realised. "I was very lucky as I was mentored by Paula Callan and Derek Carberry who went out on their own with Callanberry (callanberry.com). We do a lot of fashion shows and shoots. We're very lucky. I love the variety of being in the salon with regular clients and then having days outside the salon. My routine is broken, which I enjoy."

Do people dash in and have their make-up done every day of the week or is just for special occasions, I wondered? "Prior to 2008, when all industries took a hit, we would have had a lot of people who were going to charity lunches or events, not even big events, maybe for a friend's party. That died off but that's when we really worked on bringing in services like 3D brows - which actually has my week booked!" It's apparently all about getting your eyebrows back to a natural state and not to be confused with a very strong 'Essex or Scouse' brow', phrases apparently coined by reality TV programmes. Shows how much I know!

"Brown Sugar is very much in the media, dealing with models, actresses and politicians, amongst others. We do a lot of corporate work; people having profile shots, so they are represented in the best way. It's not to make them look great on a night out, but how they want to come across, looking their best with a very polished version of themselves."

As Dearbhla was busy working in South William Street, her future husband, Brian Deery, was also working there, where, with his business partner Giovanni Viscardi, he now has Bagots Hutton - a restaurant, bar and club. Brian is originally from Castleknock. "I started working in the hospitality industry in the Porterhouse Group. My mother had worked with them as an accountant. It was the first microbrewery in Ireland and I was very lucky to serve my time with them." Brian spent 10 years with the company, including six months at the Porterhouse in Covent Garden and a year working in Paris. He later joined the South William Bar close to Brown Sugar, where Dearbhla and colleagues would meet for drinks after work.

"We met across a crowded bar. He asked me out for a "burger, which took me aback a bit", laughed Dearbhla. "I thought it would be a good idea to get out of town for a bit of peace," added Brian, "to the then new Jo'Burger in Rathmines, where we could talk, to give things a chance. But what actually came out of my mouth was 'how'd you like to go for a burger', and she turned me down." However, Brian persevered and they went to Saba, the Thai Restaurant on Clarendon Street.

Together now for seven years, they got married in 2013. Brian and Giovanni opened Bagots Hutton three and a half years ago in a basement in No 28 South William Street. "There were a lot of 'To Let' signs on the street at that time. It had really taken a big hit and we were looking at the big places being quiet during the week and really busy at weekends. When we looked at our premises and the story of its history in the wine business unfolded, it seemed right. We wanted to do something different and a little bit more grown up as well." With couches and a relaxed atmosphere, Bagot Hutton started out serving antipasti plates and wines but have now extended the kitchen to also serving pastas, pizzas and cocktails. "We wanted to do something rustic. Giovanni is from Naples, the home of pizzas, so we serve nice rustic pizzas and pastas that his grandmother would have cooked. It's taken a bit of work to get it right. When we started with the hot food, we looked around and some places were very expensive, some places had more of an early bird feel, and we thought we would charge in the middle."

"South William Street is such a creative quarter, but there's a family atmosphere. You can't walk down the street without stopping 10 times to talk to people." says Dearbhla. It's certainly been special for this couple, who found business success and love.



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